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We're losing Tallent as athletes hit the wall at AIS

Race walker Jared Tallent and wife Claire - who now coaches the Olympic medallist - contemplate their future during a break at the AIS athletics track.

Race walker Jared Tallent and wife Claire - who now coaches the Olympic medallist - contemplate their future during a break at the AIS athletics track. Photo: Melissa Adams

Canberra will lose one of Australia's most successful Olympians with Jared Tallent set to leave the Australian Institute of Sport and move to Adelaide to be closer to family.

The multiple Olympic medal-winning race walker said more departures could follow as a cloud hangs over the future of his sport.

Following a massive review into the nation's unsuccessful London Olympic Games, Athletics Australia head coach Eric Hollingsworth will meet with the other AIS-based race walkers on Wednesday before deciding whether the program will continue in the ACT or be disbanded.

An AIS-based athletics program has long been at the heart of Australia's top track-and-field athletes.

Along with Tallent, the likes of Patrick Johnson, Jane Flemming, Jana Pittman and Robert de Castella all enjoyed success while based in Canberra.

But Australia's poor showing in London led to the development of the Winning Edge program.

As part of Winning Edge, all sports will run their own high-performance programs, instead of the AIS.

Funding will be determined by success and distributed by the AIS.

Athletics Australia will move to a tiered scholarship system that rewards higher-ranked athletes with more money.

If offered a small scholarship by Athletics Australia, Tallent thought there would be little incentive for some race walkers to remain at the institute.

Of the eight race walkers at the AIS, it's believed only three will be offered scholarships.

The walking program has been based at the AIS for 33 years and has claimed five of Australia's last 10 Olympic medals in athletics.

''We've always wanted to move home to be closer to family and now that all this is happening and we're sort of on our own anyway, it just made the decision easier,'' Tallent told The Canberra Times.

Despite being the only male track-and-field athlete to win three Olympic medals since 1900, Tallent has been working without a coach since late last year following Brent Vallance's move to Melbourne.

His wife Claire has taken over his coaching duties part-time, fitting it in around her full-time job. As she isn't an AIS coach, Tallent has to pay for her to travel to events.

Tallent said the early morning and evening training sessions were far from ideal. He felt if Athletics Australia didn't appoint a full-time coach it would be putting that recent success in jeopardy.

Vallance agreed, and was critical of Athletics Australia's desire to destroy a proven program.

''It's a massive blow. The race walking event group has won 50 per cent of their medals of the last three Olympic cycles,'' he said.

''We may have had an absolute golden era in the men's events, but the avenue to the high-performance system has now been closed,'' Vallance said.

''We were having no problem filling our team with members of high-quality, A-standard athletes; we were having very, very little problem transitioning our junior team into our senior team.

''It makes no sense to just shut it down and only support people for what they've done because it was the system that brought them in and put them up to that level.''

Hollingsworth could not be contacted by The Canberra Times on Monday. Several AIS athletes confirmed their future remained uncertain as they await his verdict.

Rumours suggest a move towards a four-tier system with world rankings determining what level of funding each athlete gets.

The new system will be introduced on May 1.

11 comments

  • Race walking? Just run for crying out loud!

    Commenter
    Mat.
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    February 19, 2013, 7:35AM
    • A four-tier system based on world rankings to determine funding? No wonder athletes are pushed to take drugs when there is such pressure to do well. I bet the cycling program hasn't had any money taken away from it and look how clean that has proven to be in recent years as they are always pushing the limits.

      Commenter
      Jezza
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 19, 2013, 8:00AM
      • Oh Boo Hoo, another sob story about mollycoddled "professional" sports people whining about how underfunded they are and how they're going to have to go out and get a real job. Frankly our athletes are overpaid as it is, the money spent on these cry babies (and I include swimmers, runners, cricketers and every other sport where "professionals" have their hands stuck out for money) should be diverted to encourage more people to take up amateur sports, where frankly the facilities are generally underfunded and where they do exist, overpriced. The few sporting facilities that are available at low cost, generally tend to be associated with the big 3, cricket, rugby and netball. If you have an interest in any sport outside these 3 good luck finding a venue.

        Commenter
        Fedup
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        February 19, 2013, 9:15AM
        • "Rumours suggest a move towards a four-tier system with world rankings determining what level of funding each athlete gets. " Another top-down bit of luncay from Sports Administrators - Can't they work out that you can't get to the top without a broad base to work from - A pyramid standing on it's point falls over - Simple!

          Commenter
          StevieL
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          February 19, 2013, 10:12AM
          • Walking is not a sport. Expecting taxpayers to foot the bill is pure self indulgence. Time to get real a real job Jarred and give something back to the community that has paid for your hobby for too long.

            Commenter
            Nigel
            Date and time
            February 19, 2013, 12:02PM
            • How narrow-minded are some of you suggesting race walking is not a sport. Have a look in South America and Europe and how massive race-walking is. These walkers put their bodies through hell ... the men's 50km race walk is the most taxing Track and Field event at the Olympics and they walk at a pace faster than 99% of the population can run.

              There are very few Australian Track and Field athletes that make decent money from sport ... it's not like Rugby League and Cricket. People like Sally Pearson are the exception, not the rule, and she had barely any money until she finally cracked it for silver in Beijing. Most of out Track and Field athletes work to supplement their meagre scholarships ... it's not like Track and Field in the US here.

              50% of Australian track and field medals on the smell of an oily rage compared to Russian, Spanish, Chinese and Mexican race walking programs.

              Commenter
              Fender
              Location
              Brisbane
              Date and time
              February 19, 2013, 12:53PM
              • Upon a completely different note....just let's get Swisse to sponsor them, that way we can pay them for staying on eh?
                Noticed ever since Swisse sponsored anyone they have all gone downhill.
                1. The Aussie Cricket Team
                2. The Wallabies
                3. The Olympic team
                4. The Tennis team
                The list is endless.....
                Rubbish ads and even worse results!

                Commenter
                Smasher
                Date and time
                February 19, 2013, 1:52PM
                • Do athletes attending the AIS, while studying for a degree, not pay HECS fees like the rest of the population?

                  If that is the case it needs to change, they get enough assistance as it is without taxpayers supporting their lifestyle choices.

                  Commenter
                  Mayday
                  Location
                  Sydney
                  Date and time
                  February 19, 2013, 2:40PM
                  • Oh yeh, if you are an athlete you can have millions of taxpayer dollars poured into making you successful and then you get to keep all your millions too. No hecs for these guys.

                    Commenter
                    WotTha?????
                    Date and time
                    February 19, 2013, 3:29PM
                • Oh dear I am sorry. I think if I left Canberra for another city, no one would worry. Sorry I don't get it! The Australian Institute of Sport is Australia wide - isn't it? It really does not matter where athletes are located? I am not sure what this story is about? I am NOT going to feel guilty as a Canberra resident (or even as an Australian) because these people have to relocate! My best wishes to them as athletes and good vibes for future success - even though it may not be in Canberra.

                  Commenter
                  Provo
                  Date and time
                  February 19, 2013, 9:50PM

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